Winter storm, student walkout and return to in-person learning

Louis Riel College high school students walk out of class in Winnipeg on January 17. Some students have protested their return to school as the number of COVID-19 continues to rise in Manitoba.JOHN WOODS/The Canadian Press

The return to classroom learning was temporarily suspended in parts of Ontario and Quebec as a severe snowstorm closed school buildings on Monday.

Meanwhile, Manitoba students have come out of their classrooms to protest the province’s back-to-school plan. Schools in Toronto and Ottawa were among those that canceled classes for the day, although many boards offered remote learning. All public schools in Montreal were also closed due to the snowstorm.

“A day like today provides families and children with a learning and wellness opportunity to enjoy outdoor recreational activities, which is a key part of child development,” Manny said. Figueiredo, director of education at the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board in the Southwest. Ontario.

Millions of students in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia were set to resume in-person learning on Monday after a long winter break and a period of online learning. The delay was intended to give schools more time to protect against the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19. Students in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan have been back in class for at least a week. School boards in those provinces are already facing staff shortage issues and some classrooms have temporarily gone online due to an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Parents and teachers in four provinces prepare to return to class as Omicron spreads

In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford had said he had closed schools to in-person learning for two weeks in the new year because hospitalizations were rising, but also to implement more safety measures and allow time for students and staff to get vaccinated. The government said that during school closures it shipped N95 masks for school staff and accelerated booster injections for education and childcare workers; it is also preparing to deploy 3,000 HEPA filters in addition to the 70,000 already present in schools.

The Toronto District School Board sent a note to educators and families on Sunday evening explaining that classes would be held remotely if school buildings were closed on Monday. “While we shared last month that if the buses were canceled it would be a typical ‘snow day’ (no live learning) as the whole system has been learning remotely for almost two weeks already, and given the disruptions in student learning, we believe it would be preferable to extend remote learning for an additional day,” the letter reads.

The board has been criticized for its last-minute change. He issued another statement on Monday morning saying schools would be closed to in-person learning and that staff would “do their best to provide remote learning and, if that is not possible, post student work. “.

Michelle Teixeira, head of the Toronto Secondary Teachers’ Federation, said educators felt “disrespected” by the sudden change in policy late Sunday night.

“It created a tremendous amount of undue stress for them,” she said. “The council talks about the mental health and well-being of its workers. But that didn’t seem to be evident in how they handled this particular situation.

In Manitoba, students at several schools staged a strike Monday morning to protest the lack of safety measures to protect them from COVID-19 as they returned to their classrooms.

Adrian Bunn, a Grade 10 student in Winnipeg, said he and other students would like access to quick tests and a distance learning option.

“We are protesting because of the rise of Omicron and the fact that our school is still going back in person when it’s really not the best option and we really should be staying home,” he said. declared.

Alan Campbell, president of the Manitoba School Boards Association, said that, as in other provinces, there is “always room for improvement” in health and safety measures in schools, including improving ventilation.

“We continue to discuss with the provincial government these shortcomings,” he said.

While students in the rest of Atlantic Canada stayed home for an extended period of virtual learning, children returned to classrooms in Nova Scotia on Monday. A spokesperson for the province’s largest public school board said there was no noticeable increase in teacher absences on the first day.

Doug Hadley, spokesman for the Halifax Regional Center for Education, said the priority was to keep schools open. If necessary, the public board will draw from its rosters of substitute teachers and retired administrators, and reallocate licensed teachers who typically work in administration to help out in schools, he said. .

“We are pleased to welcome back all students for in-person learning, as school is the best place for students’ emotional, social, physical and intellectual well-being and development,” he said. he declares. “We will exhaust all options before closing a school.”

With reporting by Greg Mercer and Eric Andrew-Gee

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